Today, we hop on the red train and go all the way to Miura, the gateway to Tokyo Bay. Miura city used to be the background in many movies from the Showa era. It flourished as a tourist resort, owing to its beautiful seashore and fresh produce. Now, it looks like it used to be “cool” but was forgotten by all the cool people many, many years ago. What does present-day Miura have to offer to a visitor? Stick with me for a two-day excursion, and we’ll find out.
Miura city in Kanagawa comprises the largest part of Miura peninsula, the protective barrier of Tokyo Bay together with Boso peninsula. Tokitsugu Miura was the lord of the area during Muromachi period, and he bestowed his name to his fief. To the north, Miura borders with the rich city of Zushi and the americanised Yokosuka. The peninsula is pretty flat and relatively warm, ideal for the farming of vegetables. Thanks to the easy access to the ocean, it is blessed with abundant catches of the famed Misaki maguro (a tuna species). The port of Misaki can be accessed in an hour and a half from Haneda airport in Tokyo.
There are a couple of hotels around Miura, but I was kindly allowed to stay at the Yamadaya, a traditional Japanese house that had just been renovated. The top floor is the guest house, while the bottom floor doubles as a sake and liquor store. The house has tatami and wooden floors, with beds instead of futon, a large living room, a kitchen, a huge bathtub and a view to the port. The living area is in Shoin style, decorated with all traditional elements like paper sliding doors, a tokonoma shelf and a low table with floor cushions right next to a fridge with cold beers. The owner of the establishment is a grandpa, who replied “Showa 10-something” (1930s) when I asked him when they opened the shop. He could hardly speak any English apart from “gibu me chokoreeto”, a phrase that he probably learnt from the American soldiers stationed in Yokosuka after Japan’s defeat in WWII. He told me that his shop’s speciality is sake from Nagano and the locally brewed Misaki beer.
The first sightseeing spot in Misaki is the local temple, Kainan shrine. A statue of a severed tuna head greets you at the entrance. Local fishermen used to come to this shrine to pray for a good catch. The omikuji (fortune slips) are also shaped like a fish, and you can angle yours from a basket. On the left side you can see a giant portrait of the patron saint, who holds a tuna and a daikon (white radish), the two local specialities. It is said that the festival god of the shrine hates sumo wrestling because they once lost in a match. Therefore, it rains every time a wresting game is scheduled in the area and no sumo has ever visited the shrine. Just next door to the shrine, I tried to get my hands on some -wait for it- sweets with tuna at Seigetsu (清月), but unfortunately the shop was closed at that time.
The next stop is the fish market Urari, the gem of the port. The fishing industry was greatly developed in the Showa era, facilities were improved and investments were made in ultra-low temperature fridges. In the early morning hours, the ones who dared to wake up in the middle of the night can witness auctions of fresh fish. These auctions are not as fancy as the ones in Tokyo’s Tsukiji market, but fish quality is nevertheless guaranteed. The first floor sells fish and products of the sea, the top floor sells vegetables and there is a BBQ area outside.
In front of Urari you can find a yellow boat with a rainbow logo. This boat takes you on a cruise to the side of Jogashima island, from where you can see hundreds of fish through its underwater windows. The area is also the resting spot for Umiu (japanese sea cormorants). During the trip, large hawks are accompanying the boat.
It’s past noon already, and I’m getting hungry, so I decide to hop on the bus and get late lunch on Jogashima island (it is connected to the mainland with a tall bridge). If you are a regular of the blog, you probably already know Jogashima as the location of a great seaside trail hike. This time I didn’t do the full hike. After lunch at Nakamuraya, I just walked from one end of the island to the other, enjoying the sea view. Jogashima has numerous lighthouses to protect ships, which are part of a ‘lighthouse project’ targeting loving couples. The large natural arch of Umanose and the rocky shore are popular locations for wedding photography. I always come across couples and a photography team carrying drones and props.
Back to Misaki for dinner, where the only open restaurant during this state of emergency (at 7pm mind you) was an italian restaurant, Bocca. They offer japanised italian cuisine with emphasis on local products i.e. seafood and fresh vegetables. The town is pretty dead by 9pm, and while this could be due to the current stage of the pandemic, I suspect it is always like that. However, I spotted a karaoke bar, so that could be an option for late(r) night entertainment.
After a good night’s sleep, I headed for breakfast. Mind you, not your usual continental breakfast. “When in Rome” etc, so fish with rice for breakfast, again our lovely maguro tuna. The fishermen have already returned from their night catch, and are getting their lunch. It’s nice to observe them, they are young, most of them in their 30s, wearing black sweaters with hip-hop aesthetic, ah the fresh scent of globalization.
Today I am exploring the west side of the peninsula. The first sightseeing spot for the day is the lighthouse at Moroisozaki. Most of the lighthouses in Miura were first built two centuries ago, from foreign engineers invited from the Meiji government. They are monuments of international cooperation and the modernization of Japan. At Moroisozaki, the shoreline consists of the same type of rock, which was formed in the deep seabed and was gradually elevated with earthquakes. There is not much to do around, but the Seabornia Marina is at the next bay. However, I decided to go for a walk in Koajiro no mori, which claims to be the last untouched forest of the entire Kanto region. Indeed untouched, because you can’t even step on the ground, you are allowed to walk only on a narrow wooden deck. It is a continuous area of different ecosystems, starting with a river basin, then wetlands and finally the sea shore. The forest sure sounds full of life and is home to endemic species of crabs. You can spot different animals during the short downhill walk, which hardly takes more than an hour and ends up in front of Shirahige shrine, devoted to one of Miura’s seven luck gods. Look for some small stones and try dropping them to a surface. Apparently, these are Kan-Kan stones, which make a ‘clink’-like metallic sound that brings luck to fishermen.
After a short stop for coffee and sweets at the veranda of Asora Terrace, I headed to Arasaki park, which technically belongs to Yokosuka city. It features the same landscape as the seashore at Bishamon bay at the south part of the peninsula, but with a direct view towards Izu peninsula and the Izu islands. A lot of families spend their time fishing, but you can also walk along the shore. Some points are relatively difficult to pass, but there are either bridges or chains to assist you. Just be mindful of the high tide, in order to not get stuck at a rock corner with no exit. I really liked Benzaiten’s island (more like a rock) with the three pines standing on its peak, but sadly it was too slippery to climb to its top.
I saved Miura beach for last. It’s a long stretch of sandy beach on the east side of the peninsula, suitable for swimming and sports during summer. From there, you have a clear view of Boso peninsula in Chiba. If you look carefully at the posters of the election candidates, you can see that the street style of Yokosuka has spilled over to Miura. Does the candidate wear the standard black suit? No, he is wearing a sukajan! I grabbed some pasta at ao and then headed back home from Miura-Kaigan station, the second-to-last train station. Initially, there was a plan to extend the railway all the way to Misaki port, but at some point they dropped it and now the train reaches only until the middle part of the city.
Miura city is ideal to experience the slow life. Recently, they started a new project that lets you do a “test stay” somewhere in the city, in order to consider moving there permanently. Considering that remote work is here to stay for many of the office workers in Tokyo, it seems like an appropriate place to move, so that you maintain a good quality of life with easy access to the business districts. Apart from the sea, the other charm of the area are the abundant plum and sakura trees, that turn the entire place pink in spring. If you ever saw a picture of a red train next to a never-ending line of blossoming trees, chances are it was Miura.
All in all, I recommend Miura for a short escape from Tokyo. While communication might be tricky for first-time visitors to Tokyo, consider visiting Misaki. Firstly for the michelin-star food and secondly for the village atmosphere. You can get a glimpse of old-school Japan, which is disappearing fast from the larger cities. Combined with Zushi and Kamakura, it’s the riviera of Kanagawa, combining nature with history, old with modern. When you go, say hi from me to the cats of the restaurant Kanea in Jogashima. Enjoy Miura!
Note: If you happen to see a samurai-fish with a bowl for helmet and a radish for sword, fret not. He is Miura Tuna-no-suke, Miura’s official mascot.
For more details on the locations I visited, you can check the map.
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